Wednesday, 12 October 2016

'Cuadrilla men followed us and filmed our children', parents claim

Tina Rothery
At a well-attended meeting at Lancaster Friends Meeting House yesterday, Lancaster residents started organising the local response to Secretary of State Said Javid's recent decision to allow Cuadrilla to frack at Little Plumpton, near Blackpool. Lancashire County Council had previously refused planning permission.

Despite the Planning Inspector having recommended that Cuadrilla's appeal to also frack at Roseacre be rejected, Javid has said he will grant it, subject to revised transport arrangements.

The meeting, organised by the North Lancashire Green Party,  heard about Tina Rothery (pictured), who will be appearing at Blackpool Magistrates Court on Wednesday 19 October, and who would welcome public support there from 1pm. Tina took part in a set three week occupation of the proposed site during the planning application process in 2014. The aim was to raise public awareness of Cuadrilla's plans for the area and to show just how close this proposed fracking field was to their homes, businesses and schools.

She and her companions packed up when the three weeks was over and left voluntarily, by prior agreement. They filmed a fingertip search of the field, ensuring it was left completely clean, and notified police, media, Cuadrilla and the landowner that they had left.
But then, although no-one was there,  Cuadrilla  arranged an 'eviction'.

Tina, as a 'named person' was then sued for damages, and ordered to pay £50,000 costs to Cuadrilla, for the legal costs of an eviction that didn't happen and for clearing up a site that was cleaner when she left than when she arrived. It is a shockingly disproportionate amount. She has refused to pay, for what she and her fellow activists believe is a malicious suit, intended to misuse the legal system as a weapon to deter peaceful protest.

Claire Stevens, of the Preston New Road Action Group, who lives near the proposed site, told the meeting about the treatment of parents who had publicly expressed concern about the proposed fracking site being very close to their children's primary school. They had found themselves being followed and filmed. Their children had been filmed. They believed it to be part of a process of intimidation. They found that many organisations and individuals based near the site were offered money by Cuadrilla. When the local councils debated the issue, several councillors were found to have been targeted with Cuadrilla money for their charities, causes or business interests.

Cuadrilla offered to build the school a new classroom. But parents did not want to trade their children's health for any amount of cash.

Cllr Gina Dowding told how Lancashire County Council had gone to unprecedented lengths to present expert scientific evidence and studies that were independent and internationally peer reviewed, in making their decision.  Cuadrilla's evidence had not come close to that standard. Nevertheless, the council was now liable for over £300,000 for Cuadrilla's costs. If their Roseacre decision was also overturned by the Secretary of State, against the Planning Inspector's recommendation, these costs might well be even higher.

Dr Isabela Fairclough of Uclan gave a fast-paced and packed presentation on Cuadrilla's media strategies and how the debate was manipulated to distract from the scientific realities and instead present the objectors as Nimbys or ill-informed. In fact, she demonstrated, Lancashire people were being forced into use as experimental subjects to test a process with potentially very high health risks, against their will. There was no other field of scientific or medical research where such human experimentation would be permitted without the subjects' consent. .

The meeting heard that there are richer shale gas beds in the South of the UK, in areas of comparable or lower population density.  Indeed the Fylde geology is particularly poorly suited to fracking, being already heavily fractured and unstable. Initial test-fracking had immediately resulted in two earthquakes in 2011. However the south is where most conservative voters live, as well as the friends, families, lobbyists and funders of most of the Conservative government and its ministers.

The risks of  shale gas fracking to public health, the environment and local economies are well-documented and the government could not risk alienating these tory constituencies with a process with a long track record of being unsafe in anyone's yard.  So they decided instead to test out this process in far-away Lancashire, in their belief that Lancashire residents did not have the will, resources or the influence to resist.

Sign the Green Party petition for fracking to be debated in parliament

People interested in adding their support to the anti-fracking campaign can find out more at the following websites and facebooks.

Preston New Road Action Group website
Frack Free Lancashire website
Lancaster Climate Action on facebook
Lancaster Fights Fracking on facebook

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